Tag Archives: life

3 reasons you should visit a cemetery

This past week, only days after Memorial Day, I ironically found myself attending 2 funerals and visiting 2 cemeteries. I listened to Taps from a Marine bugle, I watched a flag being folded and unfolded by 2 solemn officers, and I straightened plastic flowers at several grave sites. 

This weekend marked my most profound visit to a cemetery to date. I stood over the graves of both my parents. It’s not something you anticipate having to do until your 60s, but I’ve already done it. Then I stood over the graves of my grandparents, uncles, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents.

And I could hear my mom’s voice in my head saying,

“Don’t walk on the graves. Walk in between them. See the space between the headstones? Follow that when you walk.”

“Read the stones. Someone lived a full life, and this is how they are remembered.”

Mom was religious about instilling in us a respect for the dead because, after having been widowed at 31, she was acutely aware of the value of life.

As I ambled through the Illinois cemetery, I reflected on its role in culture. With the current popularity of cremation, I wondered if cemeteries will one day become obsolete? What value, if any, do they hold for life? My own experience has supplied me with three reasons you should visit a cemetery. I will share them with you, on the premise that you will one day find yourself standing over the granite stone of a loved one. Continue reading

My first birthday without my mother

I have a birthday this week. It’s my first birthday without my mother.img_0032

I’m not asking for “happy birthdays” or even remarks about “how good I look for my age.” I’m just trying to settle into a new decade (yuk!) and lean into who I am and who I’ve become. I’m desperately trying to move forward. Be proactive. Embrace a new era. But I feel as if my feet are sinking into a muddy pit, and if I step forward, I may sink further. And I will certainly lose my shoes.

There’s a new me ahead. The problem is I’m not sure I will like her.

And to make the week a tad more complicated, in seven days, I will also “celebrate” my parents’ birthdays. They were both born on the same day–Oct. 31–and they are now both gone from this life. Continue reading

What I love about spring

1. Trees. I love that trees in Virginia bloom white, pink, and purple before their leaves come out. Flowers on trees is a terribly clever idea.

2. Grass and Mulch. I love the smell of cut grass and mulch. My kids think grass and mulch smell like work. But I think they smell like tidiness and coffee table books. If you didn’t know tidiness or books had any aroma whatsoever, just cut your grass or lay some mulch. You’ll see. Neat, tidy, beautiful. Like I get to live in a picture.IMG_1685

3. Birds. I love to hear birds chirp their little heads off. Yes, they chirp and sing all year, but not like they do in the spring. During this season, they warble with purpose. Maybe they’re barking at their husbands to hurry up and repair the nest before the babies get here, but their voices are music to me. Birds proclaim joy, hope, and satisfaction with life. I open my patio door every morning to listen to them. They make me believe that every day can be good.

4. Dirt. I love the smell of dirt when I’m planting my pansies. Soil has a satisfying feel to it, almost like cookie dough when you’re mixing it and swiping a mouthful. The texture and scent of soil carry life and nourishment, while promising beauty. Often when I’m planting, I take off my gardening gloves so the dirt rubs across my skin and collects under my fingernails. I feel, for a brief moment, like a proud pioneer woman surveying fields planted by the sweat of my brow. Then I go back inside my suburban house and wash my hands.

5. Flowers. Dirt means flowers, and I love flowers. If I were ostentatiously rich, I would have a garden so complex that it would require a full-time gardener to tend it. I picture an arboretum, mazes of hedges, and vast rows of tulips growing closely together while little pansies flock at their feet. Like brush-strokes across a canvas, rows of flowers would bloom in artistic arrangement throughout my garden. Trees and beds, all trimmed with that sweet mulch and neat grass, would create private spots for benches and chairs. I picture Monet’s Giverny when I walk outside my house. Oh yeah, I’d have a pond and a green bridge, too. And maybe a rowboat. (Remember, I want to live in a coffee table book.)

6. Nothing here–this is a diatribe. Since this is a spring column, it’s time for me to talk about baby animals–bunnies and chicks and squirrels and birds. Let me set the record straight on this. I do not particularly get excited about these animals, especially not baby squirrels or baby bunnies, however cute they appear in children’s picture books and greeting cards. Squirrels eat bird food, which, as you remember, violates my #3 love. Rabbits eat bulbs, which violates my #5 love. I have lost many a hosta plant and tulip bulb to those hungry little varmints with fluffy tails, and all my bird feeders are sitting empty. I do not love bunnies and squirrels, however springy they may be.

7. Warmth. I love the sun. I live in a temperate climate, so I’ve felt the sun’s warmth during the winter, too, but spring warmth awakens surprising emotions of resilience and energy. I almost feel like a heater inside my body switches on in April and warms me up to the probability of happiness and success. Off comes the jacket, off comes the scarf, sleeves get pushed up, and my face tilts heavenward. Aaah! Something inside me regenerates.

Life is good. No matter what difficulties I have, hope and peace quietly resurface every spring, like one of my irises unfurling its purple petals to astonish the world with an intricate palate of color and detail. It announces, “I’m alive!”

Spring is life. No wonder I love it.